Friday, April 18, 2014

Hampton Watershed Trails

The Hampton Watershed Trails offer five miles of trails for mountain bikers, hikers, and trail-runners of all skill levels, with rating from easy to double-black-diamond. I'm completely impressed with the amount of maintenance that has been done on these trails -- they're in fantastic shape, including the lower portion that goes through pine forests with many downed trees.  I can't imagine all the hours donated by volunteers to keep them open and looking so great. First time visitors should note that the trails aren't well marked, so be sure to take a photo of the trail map located at the trail head. Along with the main trails, there are instances where riders have created cut-throughs - so you'll want to pay close attention to the map as you go. These trails are specifically for biking and hiking, with no horseback riding, hunting or camping allowed.

The Watershed area is fantastic, giving visitors the experience of biking/hiking through both pine and hardwood forests, on both mountain and (relatively) flat terrain. There are three trails in the Watershed:

Trail Name:         Skill Level:         Length:
Pine Loop            Easy                   1 mi.
River Loop          Difficult              1.25 mi.
Cat's Pajamas    Very Difficult      1.5 mi.

Doe River
The River Loop takes visitors on a journey to a small opening/access along the Doe River. I found the River Loop trail to be easy to moderate as a hiking trail, but I could image it being rated as difficult in terms of mountain biking. The view at the top was taken on the Cat's Pajamas trail at an overlook of the Doe River Gorge. The upper portion of the Cat's Pajamas trail is marked as a one-way trail, due to its steepness and difficulty (click on link to map below). The portion leading up to the overlook is steady in terms of its elevation gain, but still, is fairly easy to hike. For hikers, I'd say to go back the way you came after visiting the overlook, as the double-black diamond portion of the Cat's Pajamas trail looks very steep. :)

The sign at the trail head instructs cyclists to "ride within their ability levels and yield to pedestrians." My advice for hikers is to be aware that there are many mountain bikers who frequent this area. My guess is that the vast majority of visitors to the Watershed are bikers. And because hikers aren't always used to sharing trails with bikers, it's important to be attentive and prepared to quickly step aside, especially in areas where bikers don't have a good line-of-sight to give them warning of your presence. Special care needs to be taken with children and pets. 

Hampton Trail Bicycle Shop has put together a Facebook page here.

You'll find a fun video of a mountain bike ride through the Pine Loop, here.

For more Mountain Biking destinations in our area, click here.

Directions: Access to the Hampton Watershed Trail system is found behind Hampton High School in Hampton, TN. To get there, take 1st Ave. east for 1/2 mile to a small gravel parking lot on your left. There you will find a detailed map of the area.  Click here for google map.

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